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Typhoon Goni hits Philippines, compounding damage of storms and coronavirus

November 5, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Denver Newsroom, Nov 5, 2020 / 10:28 am (CNA).- Typhoon Goni has hit the Philippines, killing several people and causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes as the country struggles to recover from two other recent major storms and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international aid agency, is reaching out to help.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with the local Church and Caritas Philippines to provide lifesaving support to families, such as making sure that they have access to safe drinking water and adequate shelter,” Nikki Gamer, media relations manager for CRS, told CNA Nov.4. “We’re also continuing to assess the damage and plan for ongoing support if needed.”

Typhoon Goni, locally known as Rolly, hit parts of the Philippines Nov. 1. Its peak winds reached 195 miles per hour. It was comparable in strength to the devastating 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which killed some 6,000 people and damaged or destroyed 4 million homes.

The latest storm passed south of Manila but took out power in 125 cities and towns. About 2 million people were in the storm’s path, the Washington Post reports.

At least 20 people died and 10,000 homes were either damaged or destroyed.

Abay province suffered heavily, and San Francisco village in the town of Guinobatan was buried when rain and water drove mud and rocks down the slope of the Mayon Volcano.

Debris, flood, and landslides have blocked several land routes and several bridges have been destroyed. Several thousand personnel and 700 vehicles and heavy equipment have been deployed to clear roads.

The province of Catanduanes was unreachable by phone and its airport tower was not responsive. Communication was restored after a day without contact.

Gamer said over 1.7 million people have been affected.

Some 389,000 people are estimated to have evacuated their homes and taken refuge in churches, courts, and schools. Health officials have asked them to continue to follow practices to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic makes the situation more fraught as social distancing and protection measures are difficult to adhere to in crowded evacuation centers,” Gamer told CNA. “What’s more, COVID-19-related travel restrictions have further complicated humanitarian efforts.”

Catholic Relief Services is the U.S. branch of Caritas International, the Catholic Church’s humanitarian relief network, which is helping Caritas Philippines in its emergency response efforts.

“Several Caritas International member organizations have responded not only with messages of solidarity, but likewise an offer to help in any way possible,” Bishop Jose Colin Mendoza Bagaforo of Kidapawan, national director of Caritas Philippines, told CBCP News.

Bagaforo appealed for the world to send aid, saying funds will help provide food, water, and emergency shelter.

He said the typhoon will bring greater poverty to the affected regions.

“With humility, we appeal for everyone’s sincere acts of kindness, generosity and compassion,” he said.

Gamer said the coronavirus and extreme weather events mean aid agencies need to prepare communities to be resilient.

“We’re greatly concerned about two ongoing issues impacting the Philippines and many other countries where we work – COVID-19 and climate change. Just like in the U.S., the secondary impacts of coronavirus have affected the economy and the ability of families to put food on the table,” Gamer told CNA.

“Meanwhile, the impacts of climate change – such as stronger and more frequent storms – are devastating livelihoods,” she said. “When Typhoon Goni struck, people were still reeling from Typhoon Quinta, which hit the same area just last week. People in the Philippines are bracing for at least five or six more typhoons this season. That’s why we’re strengthening local communities so that they’re more resilient to these types of crises in the future.”

Gamer also noted the generosity of Catholics in America.

“We’re extremely grateful for the unwavering support of American Catholics who continue to support our global mission despite all that’s happening here at home,” she said.


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Brunei’s cardinal-elect says Catholic Church can’t be a ‘little bubble’

November 3, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Nov 3, 2020 / 10:19 am (CNA).- Cardinal-designate Cornelius Sim certainly was surprised to learn Pope Francis had chosen him to be one of 13 new cardinals.

“For me, it was a bit of a shock and unexpected,” Cardinal-designate Sim told Vatican News.

Sim, 69, is Vicar Apostolic of Brunei. His 1989 ordination marked the first time a native Bruneian was ordained a Catholic priest for the country, which shares the island of Borneo with Malaysia and Indonesia.

He was appointed Prefect of Brunei in 1999, then Vicar Apostolic in 2004, and he was consecrated a bishop in January 2005.

Besides Sim, the vicariate has three Catholic priests.

Sim said he wanted to thank the Pope for “choosing someone from the peripheries.” He described the Church in Brunei as a “periphery within a periphery.”

In Sim’s view, the Pope understands that the Church exists “in those little places where there is not much publicity” but where the faith is alive.

His priorities for Brunei include biblical formation, faith formation, youth and family pastoral care, the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, evangelization, and social welfare.

The Church needs to build relationships, first within the community, starting within the family and moving to elsewhere in society, like the workplace and education.

For Sim, his role as cardinal would continue his commitments as bishop: to contribute to fostering peace, harmony and goodwill in cooperation with people of different backgrounds.

Brunei is a country of 2,200 square miles located on the north coast of Borneo. It borders Malaysia and it is a developed country, with much wealth coming from its oil and gas industries. Malay is the official language, but English and Chinese are both widely spoken.

The country is an absolute monarchy led by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. About 70% of the the population is Muslim, and a version of Islam is the official religion.

Around 13% of the population of some 460,000 people are Buddhist, 10% have no religion, and a small number have indigenous beliefs. Christians, half of whom are Catholic, make up about 10% of Brunei’s population.

The Catholic Church has had a presence in Brunei for over 90 years. Its three Catholic schools are especially an area of contribution, and 60% to 70% of their students are Muslim, Sim said.

Cardinal-designate Sim and his three priests serve the roughly 20,000 Catholics who live in Brunei. Catholics can freely practice their faith within the church compounds and at home, but public displays of the faith are restricted.

A majority of this small Catholic population, about 70%, are migrant workers from the Philippines. Another 20% are migrants from other countries such as Indonesia, India, and Malaysia. The remaining 10% are indigenous Bruneians.

The Catholic Church in Brunei must work to “provide a home away from home” for its large immigrant community, Sim told Vatican News. It supports these migrants in times of illness or death and provides financial aid and food programs.

For Catholic natives, the Church must build their faith to help them be “more conscious and more willing to be engaged” in supporting the Church.

Young Catholics, Sim said, draw their views from their counterparts in their “own world” of social media and their relationship with authority is different from that of previous generations.

For Sim, the Church cannot simply be a subculture: “as a Church we are not one little group of people, all isolated on our own in our little bubble.”

Rather, the Church cuts across boundaries of race, color, social status, or migrant status because “all of us are children, sons and daughters of Jesus Christ,” he said, adding “you cannot have God as your Father unless you have the Church as your Mother.”

Pope Francis named Sim a cardinal Oct. 25. He and 12 others, including Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, will officially become cardinals at a Nov. 28 consistory in Rome. Nine of the 13, Sim among them, are younger than 80 and will thus be eligible to vote in a conclave.


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US Secretary of State visits a site of Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter bombings

October 28, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Oct 28, 2020 / 06:19 pm (CNA).- During a visit to Sri Lanka on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter bombings.

Pompeo laid a wreath at the shrine in Colombo Oct. 28.

Speaking to the press earlier in the day, he said that “it’s important for me to take a moment to go and visit the Shrine of St. Anthony, one of the five sites that was attacked by ISIS on Easter Sunday of 2019.”


Today, I laid a wreath at the Shrine of St. Anthony, one of the sites of the 2019 #EasterAttacks which killed and injured hundreds of innocent people. We stand with the Sri Lankan people and the world to defeat violent extremism and bring perpetrators to justice. #USwithSL

— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 28, 2020


He continued: “I’ll shortly have the chance to pay my respects to the hundreds of victims of evil terrorists, including five Americans. I’m proud that the State Department has offered substantial counterterrorism assistance to help Sri Lankans bring killers of Americans and their own people to justice.”

“These Easter Sunday attacks represent the kind of sectarianism that Sri Lankans are ready to leave behind forever. Sri Lankans of all backgrounds – Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike – want a peaceful nation where their human rights are respected.”

Pompeo’s visit to Sri Lanka comes amid a week-long trip during which he is also travelling to India, Maldives, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

The State Department said that he is visiting Colombo “to underscore the commitment of the United States to a partnership with a strong, sovereign Sri Lanka and to advance our common goals for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

In his address with the Sri Lankan foreign minister, Pompeo emphasized their countries’ partnership, and contrasted it with what is sought by China. He added that the US “fully expect(s) that Sri Lanka will fulfill its pledges to take meaningful, concrete steps to promote accountability, justice, and reconciliation.”

On April 21, 2019, two Catholic churches, one evangelical Christian church, four hotels, and a housing complex were hit by nine suicide bombers. The attacks killed 259 people and injured another 500.

Five of seven suspects arrested in connection with the attacks were recently released by the country’s government.

The government has said the suspects were released due to a lack of evidence. However, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, as well as friends and family of the victims, have said they fear the release means corruption, or a lack of a thorough investigation, on the part of the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department.

Earlier this month the nation’s bishops said democracy would decay there if parliament passes a constitutional amendment that would strengthen the president’s power.