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Singapore archdioese extends required marriage prep time to one year

November 12, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Singapore, Nov 12, 2018 / 03:23 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Singapore has introduced a new policy to ensure couples are taking the time they need to properly prepare for marriage.

Catholics looking to getting married in any of the archdiocese’s 32 churches have to book their wedding date at least one year in advance, according to Catholic News.

Previously, the couples only had to notify the church six months before the wedding. Archbishop William Chye of Singapore made the decision in October after discussing the move with the archdiocese’s priests.  

Couples must still undergo the same marriage preparatory programs, including a marriage course and a meeting with the priest who will preside over the wedding.

A Catholic spokesperson for the archdiocese told Strait Times that the new policy emphasizes the importance of the commitment of matrimony and helps Catholics prepare for it.

“In response to the feedback and to help our fellow Catholics prepare for such a major commitment in their lives, the Archbishop, in consultation with his Senate of Priests, is looking to refine the recommended policies presently in place,” he said.

“It marks the beginning of a journey that the Church and the couple take together to prepare the couple for their commitment to each other,” he added.  

Numerous other Christian dominations in Singapore have similar requirements, which may range from six to nine months prior to the wedding day.

Daniel Seah is an engaged Catholic in Singapore who plans to get married in 2020. He told Straight Times that he was happy with the new policy.

“In my opinion, the divorce rate is quite high and I think the Church is looking at ways to help couples discern deeper if this is the right person for them before they walk down the aisle,” he said.

“Even if you book a hotel, you may also need to book one year in advance but people don’t grumble about that.”


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Four underground priests reportedly disappeared in China’s Hebei province

November 8, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Xuanhua, China, Nov 8, 2018 / 03:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Four priests from the underground Catholic Church in China’s Hebei province have been taken into policy custody for indoctrination, AsiaNews reported Monday.

The publication wrote Nov. 5 that the priests are being “indoctrinated on the religious policy of the Chinese government … because they refuse to enroll in the Patriotic Association.”

The abducted priests are Fr. Zhang Guilin and Fr. Wang Zhong of the Diocese of Chongli-Xiwanzi, and Fr. Su Guipeng and Fr. Zhao He of the Diocese of Xuanhua.

Fr. Zhao He may be under house arrest, according to some sources.

Reports of the destruction or desecration of Catholic churches and shrines have come from across China, including the provinces of Hebei, Henan, Guizhou, Shaanxi, and Shandong.

The Church in mainland China has been divided for some 60 years between the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a government-sanctioned organization.

A Sept. 22 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing was intended to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics and unify the underground Church and the Patriotic Association.

The agreement has been roundly criticized by human rights groups and some Church leaders, including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.

Zen wrote in a column for the New York Times that the agreement was a step toward the “annihilation” of the Catholic Church in China.

While Pope Francis is “very pastoral,” Zen said does not think that he properly understands how communist China works. In Pope Francis’ home country of Argentina, the communists worked to defend the poor against government oppression, often alongside Jesuits, he said. This could be why the pope “may have a natural sympathy for Communists,” as he views them to be persecuted.
It is far different, said Zen, in places where communists are the ruling party – like China. When they acquire power, the communists become the persecutors themselves, he said.

While the exact terms of the agreement between China and the Vatican were not released, Zen is not optimistic about the future of the underground church. While Pope Francis could still “veto” the nomination of a state-approved bishop, “how many times can he do that, really?”

“What good is having the last word when China will have all the words before it,” he asked. He also expressed doubt that the approximately 30 bishops of the underground Church will still be permitted to function as bishops if the two Churches are reconciled.

Since the agreement in September, two CPCA bishops were invited to attend the synod on youth. These men are “known to be close to the Chinese government,” and their attendance at the synod is “an insult to the good bishops of China.”


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Amid abuse lawsuits, Guam archdiocese to file for bankruptcy

November 7, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Hagatna, Guam, Nov 7, 2018 / 01:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Agaña, Guam has announced that it will file for bankruptcy, following mediation efforts in September regarding clerical abuse claims in the country.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes said the bankruptcy declaration “will bring the greatest measure of justice to the greatest number of victims,” allowing them to know “that they’ve been heard and understood,” the Associated Press reported.

Leander James, an attorney working with alleged victims in the country, welcomed the announcement, saying, “Bankruptcy provides the only realistic path to settlement of pending and future claims.”

There are currently $115 million in lawsuits from over 180 abuse claims pending in Guam.

In March, the Archdiocese of Agaña announced plans to sell its chancery property and move offices, as part of a broader move to liquidate and sell archdiocesan property to settle sex abuse cases.

Anthony Perez, another victims’ attorney, explained that the local diocese will not necessarily be forced to close its doors.

“In my discussions with attorneys from my team with extensive experience in these types of bankruptcies, this filing will allow the archdiocese to reorganize and still be operational after the claims are paid and the bankruptcy is closed,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

In March, Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron was found guilty of “certain” charges and sentenced to be removed from office and forbidden from living in the archdiocese. Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Michael Byrnes as Apuron’s successor.  

The Vatican did not state the charges for which Apuron was found guilty. He had been accused of a multitude of offenses, including raping his nephew in 1989 or 1990.

Apuron maintains his innocence and immediately filed an appeal, which Pope Francis said he was personally evaluating.


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The bishop who reaped a hundred-fold

November 7, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Miao, India, Nov 7, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Many bishops spend their days carefully making plans to lead and manage the dioceses entrusted to them.

Bishop George Pallipparambil of the Indian diocese of Miao is different. He says that in his diocese, t… […]

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PNG bishops call for asylum seekers to be admitted to Australia

November 6, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Nov 6, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Police in Papua New Guinea are moving sick refugees and migrants out of the capital city in preparation for a major economic conference, drawing ongoing criticism from the country’s Catholic leaders.

The refugees and migrants are being sent back to Manus Island off the northern coast of the country, where asylum seekers trying to reach Australia are being housed in poor conditions.

The Australian government has sent hundreds of asylum seekers to the island for processing since 2012, and around 70 men had been taken to Port Moresby, the capital, for medical treatment.

As many as 10 of the men being moved had not finished their treatment, but were told they would return in a month to complete it, Guardian Australia reported. One man reportedly attempted suicide after he was told he would be sent back to Manus Island without treatment.

Authorities are justifying the move by saying that the city’s hospital is needed for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference delegates and conference employees who may need medical treatment. APEC is scheduled to begin meetings in Port Moresby Nov. 12.

The Papua New Guinea Bishop’s Conference recently called for all the refugees and asylum seekers to be brought to Australia by Dec. 25, saying that their country cannot continue to provide adequate care.

“We are deeply concerned that the human rights of the refugees and asylum seekers have been breached as they were forcibly sent to [Papua New Guinea]; and Australia’s policies has caused us reputational damage,” a panel convened by the bishops wrote Nov. 1.

“We, the participants are speaking on behalf of the women and children on Manus who are the victims of Australia’s policies. The men have suffered enough from prolonged detention. Enough is enough. The time has come to let them go.”

About 650 migrant and refugee men are currently living on Manus Island, according to The Guardian. Conditions are bad, according to Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish Iranian journalist, who said the men are suffering widely from mental and physical illness. The conditions at the camps have been condemned by Church leaders and human rights groups.

Australia has had a system of “third country processing” since 2012 for asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat without a valid visa. The system transfers the asylum seekers to other countries, where they are processed based on that country’s laws.

Many of those seeking asylum in Australia come from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Iran, travelling by boat from Indonesia. They are typically intercepted by the Australian navy before reaching land, and are then sent to detention camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, a small Micronesian nation.

The government of Australia made an agreement with the government of Papua New Guinea in 2013, providing that migrants sent to Papua New Guinea from Australia would be settled there if they are found to be refugees. Otherwise they would be sent back to their country of origin or another country where they have legal residence.

Papua New Guinea is facing a medication shortage, an outbreak of polio, increased rates of tuberculosis, and funding crises in health and education, according to The Guardian.


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Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil: ‘I have witnessed the power of prayer’

November 6, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Bangalore, India, Nov 6, 2018 / 03:24 pm (ACI Prensa).- Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the priest who was kidnapped in 2016 and held captive for 18 months by terrorists in Yemen, said that his ability to persevere “was thanks to the prayers of everyone” who interceded for him.

“Prayer is the best thing that God has given us and can obtain everything,” he told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency. “Surrendered to the Lord’s will, during my captivity I prayed to the Lord that they would release me soon, but I also asked him to give me the grace to complete the mission that he had planned for me.”

A Salesian missionary, Uzhunnalil first garnered the world’s attention when he was kidnapped March 4, 2016, during an attack on a Missionaries of Charity home in Aden, Yemen, that left 16 people dead, including four Sisters.

His international profile grew when rumors spread that he was to be crucified on Good Friday, which were later discredited. After that, numerous photos and videos were released depicting Uzhunnalil, thin and with an overgrown beard, pleading for help and for his release, saying that his health was deteriorating and he was in need of hospitalization.

The government of Oman and the Holy See had worked for the priest’s release. He was freed Sept. 12, 2017.

In an interview with ACI Prensa the priest recalled the experience he went through in Yemen.

“The churches in Yemen had been attacked and vandalized, but in the days prior to my kidnapping the situation had stabilized somewhat,” he said.

However, on the morning of March 4, 2016, when he was praying in the chapel of the Missionaries of Charity, he heard gunshots outside. He saw jihadists killing four of the sisters.

“I prayed for God’s mercy on the sisters who had died and also for those who had killed them,” he said. “They then told me to come outside and asked me if I were a Muslim. I told them no, that I was a Christian. And they put me in the back seat of the car.”

“A little later they opened the door again and threw in something metallic wrapped in some cloth. I knew that it was the tabernacle that the sisters had in the chapel,” he explained.

While Uzhunnalil said his captors did not physically harm him, he did suffer psychological torture.

“They took everything away from me, although they gave me a little water and food,” he recalled.

During that time, they changed his location five or six times, and he said that he never knew the exact location where he was being held.

In the 18 months he was held captive, Uzhunnalil relied upon prayer for perseverance.

“It was thanks to the prayers of everyone who prayed for me that I was able to endure what I was going through. It wasn’t because of my personal fortitude but because of the prayers of my brothers and sisters in the faith,” he said.

Uzhunnalil also relied on personal prayer during his captivity.

“Every day, I prayed the Angelus; three or four Rosaries; an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be for the sisters who died; the Chaplet of Divine Mercy; I meditated on the Way of the Cross; and I celebrated Holy Mass spiritually – I didn’t have any bread or wine but I said the prayers from memory,” he said.

“I prayed for my captors and I thanked God for the seed of goodness they could have in their hearts. Thanks be to God, I don’t hold any rancor or hatred for them,” he added.

“God knew everything that was happening, because they should have killed me in the beginning, but they didn’t. They kept me alive even though I said I was a Christian. Here I am now, free, to bear witness that God is alive, that he has heard our prayers and has answered us. I have witnessed the power of prayer,” he told ACI Prensa.

After his release on September 12, 2017, he met with Pope Francis, a moment that was “tremendously emotional.” 

“During the meeting with Pope Francis, I cried and I thanked him for the prayers he had prayed for me that he had asked to be prayed for me.”

Uzhunnalil encouraged all Christians who are suffering persecution today to be steadfast in prayer and in faith in God.

The priest currently lives in Bangalore, India, since Yemen is still at war. However, he assures that he is ready to go back to the country “if that’s God’s will.”

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.