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Sri Lankan cardinal says religion is best guarantor of ‘human rights’

September 24, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sep 24, 2018 / 12:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Sri Lanka should not look to the western world’s “new religion” of human rights but to its own religious traditions, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said Sunday during his homily at Mass.

“Human rights have become the new religion of the west as if it’s a new discovery, but people in our country have been following religions for centuries,” Cardinal Ranjith said Sept. 23, according to Ada Derana, a Sri Lankan news outlet.

He was speaking during Mass at St. Matthew’s parish in Ekala, fewer than 20 miles north of Colombo.

The cardinal seems to have been denouncing the ideological colonization of which Pope Francis has frequently spoken.

“We know we have a short life-span, the longest being around 100 years; so if we get used to this ideology of living a materialistic lifestyle, we’ll end our lives in an unfortunate manner at the end,” Cardinal Ranjith reflected.

He said that “there is no need to talk about protecting any of these human rights if we follow our religions properly, because they take us beyond any of these ideas. It is those who are not following any religion who talk about all these human rights issues. We shouldn’t get entangled in this spell, and must act intelligently.”

Cardinal Ranjith’s words were also reported by Hiru TV, another Sri Lankan television channel.

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Catholic groups aid Philippines in wake of Typhoon Mangkut

September 21, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Cebu, Philippines, Sep 21, 2018 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following a powerful typhoon that struck several Northern provinces in the Philippines late last week, Catholic relief groups are working to provide essential post-storm aid.

Typhoon Mangkut made landfall at Baggao in the province of Cagayan Sept. 14, bringing with it winds of 125 mph. At least 88 people have been killed and more than 60 are missing, according to Time.

UCA News reported that the typhoon has brought damage to 30 provinces across the Philippines and more than 264,000 people have been affected, including over 37,000 displaced individuals.

The most damaged regions are Cagayan Valley, a major source of the country’s corn and rice, and Benguet, a landlocked area known for its agriculture and mining. In some areas, residents have lost access to food, clean water, and other necessities.

Catholic Relief Services said an estimated 1.6 million farmers and fishermen have been affected, and up to 90 percent of the area’s corn and rice crops have been destroyed.

Due to landslides caused by the typhoon, many mountain communities remain isolated, and more damage is expected to be found as emergency teams gain access to these areas.

“We are having difficulty reaching distant barangays (villages) because of boulders, debris and landslides along the roads. The soil is still saturated and unsettled and we are concerned about additional landslides,” said Aprilynn Villamar, an emergency program officer with CRS.

“Some families in evacuation centers are not sure where they will go or how they will rebuild their houses. There are evacuees who are showing signs of shock. This is the most devastating thing they’ve ever experienced.”

Catholic Relief Services is sending water purification and storage kits to areas hit by the typhoon, and said shelter kits and cash assistance will follow shortly.

Caritas Internationalis has launched an appeal in Rome for financial relief efforts in the Philippines, saying, “After the storm has passed people will need help to restore their livelihoods.”

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Indian bishop accused of rape arrested

September 21, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Kochi, India, Sep 21, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur was arrested by Kerala police Friday over allegations that he raped a nun repeatedly over the course of two years. The bishop denies the accusations.

The Sept. 21 arrest was made in Kochi after three days of interrogation. The bishop will be brought to court Saturday, the BBC reports.

Mulakkal, 54, wrote to the Vatican last week asking to be relieved of administration of his diocese; his request was granted, and Bishop Agnelo Gracias, an Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Bombay, was appointed apostolic administrator of Jullundur Sept. 20.

A nun, who is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, has said that Bishop Mulakkal raped her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed June 29, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

During his questioning by police, Bishop Mulakkal made several inconsistent statements, India Today reported.

According to India Today, the bishop claimed he did not stay at the Kuravilangad convent May 5, 2014, when the nun alleges she was first raped by him, but that he visited the convent, while he stayed the night at a convent in Muthalakodam.

“When police cross-checked this information with his driver and another nun who made entries of his visit in the register, they found that the bishop and his driver actually stayed in the Kuravilangad convent on the said day,” the Uttar Pradesh-based outlet reported.

A nun in the Muthalakodam convent denied he visited them, and data from the bishop’s mobile phone indicated he was present at the Kuravilangad convent that night.

A group of seven nuns, most of them Missionaries of Jesus, began protesting state and Church inaction over the matter Sept. 8 in Kochi.

Bishop Mulakkal has claimed the allegations were made in retaliation against him because he has acted against the nun’s sexual misconduct, the bishop told UCA News. He said the nun was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin’s husband.

Three more women have accused the bishop in recent days of sexual misconduct against them, but the Missionaries of Jesus’ superior general maintains that the bishop is innocent. The congregation is based in the Jullundur diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.

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Catholics in Korea look to martyrs amid nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang

September 20, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Seoul, South Korea, Sep 20, 2018 / 03:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As nuclear negotiations with North Korea continue, Catholics in South Korea are encouraging devotion to their martyr saints and renewing prayers for peace on the peninsula.

South Korea’s bishops applauded the successful completion of the third inter-Korean summit of Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, North Korea earlier this week. The meeting resulted in Kim promising to take steps towards denuclearization in exchange for concessions from the United States.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded with a statement that the U.S. is prepared to “engage immediately in negotiations” with North Korea, and invited North Korea’s foreign minister to meet with him at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City next week, where Moon will also meet with US President Donald Trump.

“This will mark the beginning of negotiations to transform U.S.-DPRK relations through the process of rapid denuclearization of North Korea, to be completed by January 2021, as committed by Chairman Kim, and to construct a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” Pompeo said Sept. 19.

Before heading to Pyongyang the First Lady of South Korea, Kim Jung-sook, attended Mass with Korean bishops in Seoul’s Myeongdong Cathedral and asked for prayers for the upcoming diplomatic negotiations.

The Mass was part of a week-long celebration of Korea’s martyr saints. On Sept. 14, the Vatican approved ‘Seoul’s Catholic Pilgrimage Routes’ as a World Pilgrimage Site.

Monsignor Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, traveled to Seoul for the pilgrimage route’s dedication ceremony.

“These routes can help not only pilgrims coming from Asia and all over the world, but whoever else chooses to walk them, to reflect on the fact that human life laid down out of love and to open their hearts to the transforming power of God’s grace which bestows the gift of faith,” said Fisichella at the Seosomun Martyrs Shrine.

More than 100 Koreans were martyred at Seosomun Park, where Pope Francis prayed before celebrating their beatification Mass in his visit to South Korea in 2014.

“Stained in the blood and sweat of the martyrs, these pilgrimage routes are not just a legacy of the Church in Korea alone,” said Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul. They are a “sacred patrimony … for all citizens on the Korean Peninsula.”

Along the pilgrimage route is Jeoldusan Martyrs’ Shrine, where Korea’s first priest, Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, was tortured and beheaded at age 25.

Saint Andrew Kim was born 1821 into an aristocratic Korean family that eventually included three generations of Catholic martyrs.

Kim traveled over 1,000 miles to attend seminary in Macau. While Kim was away at seminary, his father, Ignatius Kim Chae-jun, was martyred in 1839.

After Kim was ordained in Shanghai in 1845, he returned to his homeland to begin catechising Koreans in secret. Only 13 months later, he was arrested.

In his final letter from prison before his execution, Kim wrote to Catholics in Korea: “When he was in the world, the Lord Jesus bore countless sorrows and by his own passion and death founded his Church; now he gives it increase through the sufferings of his faithful … I urge you to remain steadfast in faith, so that at last we will all reach heaven and there rejoice together. I embrace you all in love.”

The feast of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon and his companions is celebrated Sept. 20.

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Indian bishop accused of rape steps aside, requests leave from Vatican

September 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Jalandhar, India, Sep 18, 2018 / 07:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic bishop in India accused of raping a nun repeatedly over the course of two years has written to the Vatican asking permission to be relieved of his duties as bishop while the case is investigated.

“Bishop Franco Mulakkal wrote a letter to Holy Father Pope Francis expressing his desire to step aside temporarily and requested to be relieved from the administration of the Diocese,” the Diocese of Jullundur, which Mulakkal leads, said in a statement released over the weekend and reported by Reuters.

The request came days before Sept. 19, when Mulakkal is set to be questioned by police in the southern state of Kerala, and after protests calling for his arrest have escalated.

Seven nuns gathered in a public square in Kochi earlier this month to protest how both police and the Church have responded to one nun’s accusation that Bishop Mulakkal raped her in 2014 and sexually abused her multiple times over two years.

A lay group in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, called the Movement for Transparency, has filed a police complaint charging that Cardinal George Alencherry, who heads the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, received the nun’s complaint six months ago but failed to report it to the police.

“The Church has not given us justice. Neither have the police or government. So, we will fight. We feel that it was the Church which forced us onto the streets,” Sister Anupama of the Missionaries of Jesus, one of the Kochi protesters, told the Times of India Sept. 8.

A Kerala nun has said that Mulakkal raped her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala state. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed June 29, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

Mulakkal has denied the accusations, claiming that they were made in retaliation against him because he has acted against the nun’s sexual misconduct, according to UCA News. He said the nun was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin’s husband.

Three more women have accused the bishop in recent days of sexual misconduct against them, but the congregation’s superior general maintains that the bishop is innocent.

According to Reuters, the nun who first filed a complaint against Mulakkal has also filed a complaint with the Vatican against the bishop last week.

UCA News also reported that Mulakkal filed an anticipatory bail plea with the Kerala High Court Sept. 18, which was accepted.

The Vatican has not yet commented on the case, nor has it announced whether Mulakkal’s request has been accepted.

Before leaving for his meeting with police in Kerala, Mulakkal handed over the administrative duties of his local Church to Monsignor Mathew Kokkandam, The News Minute reported.

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Nuns in India protest bishop accused of rape

September 10, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Kochi, India, Sep 10, 2018 / 12:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Seven nuns gathered in a public square in Kochi on Saturday to protest how both police and the Church have responded to one nun’s accusation that a bishop raped her in 2014 and sexually abused her multiple times over two years.

Three more women have accused the bishop in recent days of sexual misconduct against them, but the congregation’s superior general maintains that the bishop is innocent.

“The Church has not given us justice. Neither have the police or government. So, we will fight. We feel that it was the Church which forced us onto the streets,” Sister Anupama of the Missionaries of Jesus, one of the protesters, told the Times of India Sept. 8.

A nun of the congregation has said that Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur raped her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala state. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed June 29, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

Bishop Mulakkal has claimed the allegations were made in retaliation against him because he has acted against the nun’s sexual misconduct, the bishop told UCA News. He said the nun was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin’s husband.

Sister Anupama told the Times of India that “many times the sister was sexually abused by Bishop Mulackal and we had reported it to the Nuncio; they didn’t even send an acknowledgement on receiving our complaint. We also reported directly to Rome but even they haven’t responded.”

Five members of the Missionaries of Jesus protested on Saturday outside the Kerala High Court: Sister Anupama, Sister Neena Rose, Sister Ancitta, Sister Josephine, and one whose name was unmentioned because she is the natural sister of the alleged victim. They were joined by Sister Teena Jose and Sister Annie Jaise, who are members of a different congregation.

The protest was organized and supported by ecumenical groups, and friends and relatives of the alleged victim participated. Several priests and more nuns joined the protest the following day.

The News Minute reported that the Missionaries of Jesus are supporting Bishop Mulakkal. The congregation is based in the Dicoese of Jullundur, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.

The news outlet said the congregation issued a statement Monday stating: “We condemn the act by the sisters of our congregation who are protesting outside the High Court. As far as our congregation is concerned, we are ashamed and saddened by this protest.”

“Our consciousness does not allow us to stand with the victim and the sisters who are supporting her in order to crucify an innocent man … Our sister claims that the Bishop raped her on May 5, 2014 but even after that, there has been instances when the sister herself invited the Bishop for her various family functions which the Bishop had attended.”

The Missionaries of Jesus’ statement said the protesting nuns of the congregation do not belong to the Kuravilangad convent, and are protesting with the help of external forces: “This is evident from the various banners that are seen at the protest tents.”

It added, “We would like to warn all the cultural and political leaders who are coming out in support of the five sisters to be careful about not being cheated by them.”

Sister Anupama told The News Minute that “This is extremely painful that this support for the bishop has come from the community of nuns,” but she does not believe the statement was written by the superior general of the congregation. “The Missionaries of Jesus obeys what the bishop says, they would just sign at the place where he would want them to,” she charged.

Father Varghese Vallikkatt, deputy secretary general of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, told the Times of India that the public protest “is unusual … if there is any truth in the allegations, there are enough forums within the Church to raise complaints. If there is any truth in the allegations by the nun, then she should also receive justice from the legal system. In the case of action within the Church, if she has given a complaint to the concerned forum, then I am sure that an investigation would be going on.”

A police official, K Subash, told the Times of India that “we need to be sure before taking a step further,” such as arresting Bishop Mulakkal. “During the last review meeting, IG Vijay Sakhare raised a few doubts and at least a couple more of them needs to be sorted out. We will report back to him as soon as that is done. Though an arrest is inevitable in similar cases, we are not rushing it for the sake of the credibility of the case itself.”

Bishop Mulakkal has claimed that he has been threatened and blackmailed by the nun’s family.

Fr. Peter Kavumkal, vicar general of the Jullundur diocese, told UCA News that the nun’s congregation had planned to dismiss her July 2.

“It is all planned and timed to blackmail the bishop from taking punitive action against her,” the priest charged, claiming that the diocese went to police first.

Fr. Kavumkal filed a June 22 complaint in both Punjab and Kerala, charging blackmail and threatening the life of the bishop.
 

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Priest thanks Muslims for aiding flood victims at his church in Kerala

September 4, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Kottayam, India, Sep 4, 2018 / 11:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic priest in India spoke to a Muslim congregation on Friday to thank them for bringing food, water, and medicines for the more than 500 people who sought shelter in his church amid devastating flooding in Kerala in recent weeks.

Severe rains led to flash floods and landslides in Kerala in recent months, with some 400 people killed and more than 1 million displaced from their homes.

Press Trust of India reported that more than 580 people took refuge at Fr. Sanu Puthussery’s St. Antony’s parish in Achinakom, and the church soon ran out of food and water.

“I straightaway went to the Masjid, apprised the maulvi about our difficulty and requested his help. After the day’s prayers, Muslim brothers came to the church with a large quantity of food and water,” Fr. Puthussery told PTI.

“Pope Francis had said build bridges, not walls. The devastating floods has now given us an opportunity to destroy the walls and build the bridges of togetherness,” Fr. Puthussery told the 250 Muslims Aug. 31 at the Juma Masjid in Vechoor, about 15 miles northwest of Kottayam, during Friday prayers.

“I cannot express my gratitude to them in words,” the priest said, for the “help and support they had extended during the time of difficulties.”

He said youth of the mosque had also brought medicine to his parish.

Fr. Puthussery said he had gone to thank the Muslim leaders personally, but that “they invited me to their prayer hall and offered me their platform to speak. It was a rare gesture of togetherness.”

Those now returning to their flooded homes in the southwestern Indian state are encountering snakes and insects, contaminated water, and ruined crops.

Water-borne diseases are now a threat to Keralites. The state has declared a health alert, after 11 people died of leptospirosis, the BBC reported.

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