Explosion at Mexican bishops’ conference headquarters

A homemade device exploded outside the headquarters of the Mexican bishops’ conference during the nighttime hours on July 25, shattering glass and blowing open a door.

As authorities investigate possible suspects and motives, a spokesman for the bishops’ conference called for “serenity, prudence, and respect,” according to an Associated Press report.

“The events of today should invite us to reflect upon the necessity of rebuilding our social fabric,” the spokesman added.

Christians mark Martyrdom Day in India

A group of Indian Christians have decided to observe July 22 as Martyrdom Day to pay tribute to Christians killed for the sake of their faith.

Shibu Thomas, who initiated the day through his ecumenical forum Persecution Relief said special prayers were offered in Churches across the country.

The observance is “part of a concerted effort to encourage those who continue to struggle to cope with persecution and challenge to live a true Christian life,” Thomas told ucanews.com July 24.

He said July 22 was set as it marked the first anniversary of the rape and murder of a schoolgirl in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh after her family refused to abandon their Christian faith despite several threats.

“This was an act of revenge and intimidation, to get her family to renounce their faith, but they are still firm in their faith despite continuing threats,” Thomas said. “The day is a moral boost for such persons who suffer for the sake of Christ,” he said.

Christian leaders like him say attacks against Christians have increased since 2014 when the pro-the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in a landslide victory. Fundamentalist Hindu groups, who consider BJP as their political wing, took the election victory as a mandate to step up their action to make India a Hindu-only nation.

“The country is going through a very difficult phase where practicing and propagating the Christian faith is a serious challenge now,” Thomas said.

Data collected by Persecution Relief shows that in 2016 alone, Hindu extremists destroyed 106 Christian places of worship, most of them belonging to Protestant and neo-Pentecostal groups.

Iraqi Christian leader: The shepherd cannot leave his sheep

Iraqi Christian leader: The shepherd cannot leave his sheep

Iraq, June 08, 2015: Only four miles (six km) from the frontlines of Islamic State (IS) fighters, three monks and six students have determined to remain in St Matthew’s ancient monastery in Iraq’s Nineveh province until there are no Christians left in the country. “We can see the battles and the airstrikes from here in front of us,” says Yousif Ibrahim, one of three remaining monks living in the monastery. “The sky lights up at night, but we of course are not scared. God protects us.”

With only the Kurdish Peshmerga military left to protect a monastery that has withstood the conquests of the Ottoman and Persian empires, the nine Christians who have chosen to stay are only too aware that IS could reach St Matthew’s at any moment. “We are not scared, because our teachers give us a feeling of peace here,” says student Sahar Karaikos, “but we know we are on the frontlines… I don’t even want to think or speak about the destruction the Islamic State would cause if they took our monastery.”

Most of the Christians in the town and the other monks fled in August last year when IS militants advanced across territory close to Mt. Al-Faf, where St Matthew’s monastery has sat since 363 AD. Even though these monks and students remain, many of the irreplaceable books and relics have been taken to safer areas. “If a people don’t have the history of their past,” says Sahar Karaikos, “then they will not have a future because they won’t know what their origins are, where they came from.”

Set at the very heart of Iraq’s ancient Christian heartland, the Nineveh plains, St Matthew’s monastery is emblematic of Iraq’s historical Christian presence which dates back almost 2,000 years: prayer worship at St Matthew’s is conducted in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. But now the country’s Christian presence is under serious threat. Those who remain, a distinct light in the darkness, are likely to be forced out of Iraq eventually, says Yousif Ibrahim. Until then, however, he has decided to stay, explaining, “the shepherd cannot leave his sheep”.

When IS took over Mosul in June last year, they drove the Christians out of the city and looted their homes. Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, Archbishop of Mosul, fled with only five minutes to spare when the IS fighters were just 300 metres from his house. “They take everything from us,” he said, “but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.”

http://www.persecutedchurch.info/2015/06/19/iraqi-christian-leader-the-shepherd-cannot-leave-his-sheep/

More than 200 missing orphans taken by Hindu holy men after the earthquake

More than 200 missing orphans taken by Hindu holy men after the earthquake

Kathmandu, June 18, 2015: Nepali authorities have banned the transfer of children to shelters and centres run by Hindu holy men after 237 children went missing when they found refuge in such sites in the wake of the massive 25 April earthquake. The Indian-based Patanjali Yogpeeth Yoga Centre run by guru Ramdev is one of them.

The order was issued after the Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), the government body responsible for monitoring children’s movements in the country, reported the disappearance of 215 children from Gorkha District and 22 from Okhaldhunga District. Most of the children lost their parents in the powerful earthquake that killed 8,700 and injured 17,000 more.

“Hundreds of children who lost their parents or guardians have been welcomed by many organisations working on behalf of shelters run by gurus in India. However, many of them are currently unaccounted for,” CCWB Director Dilli Ram Giri told AsiaNews.

The situation came to light on 9 June when police in Kathmandu and Dhading District rescued 195 children from the Lho monastery, in Lho village (Gorkha District).

Minors were travelling without the authorisation of their home district, which was made compulsory to prevent the trafficking and exploitation of children after thousands of complaints were filed in recent weeks.

The authorities have charged Chiranjibi Bhandari, from the Nepal Children’s Organisation, of criminal association aimed at the sale of children from government-run schools.

Officials rescued 337 children from several districts, including Dhading, Dolakha, Kavre, Okhadhunga, Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Lamjung and Rukum.

According to Superintendent Krishna Gautam, head of the Women and Children Department in the Nepalese police, child trafficking has increased significantly following the earthquake.

On Tuesday, with a mandate from the Nepal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kavre District Administration Office raided the Patanjali Yogpeeth Yoga Centre and rescued 22 children who were about to be moved to the organisation’s headquarters in Haridwar (in the Indian state of Uttarakhand), and returned them to their parents.

Led by Baba Ramdev, a well-known guru, the Indian-based Patanjali Yogpeeth Yoga Centre is setting up a branch in Nepal.

Right after the earthquake, Baba Ramdev announced that he would take in 500 children affected by the earthquake, and provide them with care and education up to the fifth grade in Haridwar. However, minors found in the yoga centre in Kavre were not authorised to move.

“Those found to be taking minors with them without permission will face human trafficking charges,” warned Laxmi Dhakal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“Many children taken to India will not be allowed in shelters run by Indian Hindu gurus, even if they have the right papers, because of reports about serious cases of exploitation,” said Kavre District Chief Sudarshan Dhakal.

http://www.persecutedchurch.info/2015/06/19/india-1/

Henry VIII’s evidence to support break with Rome turns up in Cornish library

Henry VIII’s evidence to support break with Rome turns up in Cornish library

UK, February 25, 2015: A book which helped changed the course of English history, part of the evidence Henry VIII and his lawyers gathered in the 1530s to help win an annulment from Catherine of Aragon and ultimately to break with Rome, has turned up on the shelves of the magnificent library at Lanhydrock, a National Trust mansion in Cornwall.

The book, a summary of the theories of the medieval philosopher and theologian William of Ockham, has been newly identified by a US scholar and expert on the history of Henry’s library. The book was damaged but escaped destruction in a disastrous fire at the house in 1881, and crucially the fly-leaf survived. It still carries the number 282, written in black ink in the top right-hand corner, which Prof James Carley identified as corresponding with an inventory taken in 1542 of the most important of Henry’s books, five years before the king’s death.

Paul Holden, the house and collections manager at Lanhydrock, said: “It was an amazing moment. The old long gallery here is about the length of a football pitch, and the professor lapped it about six times when we found the book.”

There is nothing of Henry’s handwriting in the book, but Carley is certain it was consulted during the years when the king was desperately seeking a way, with the aid of Thomas Cromwell, of getting rid of his first wife Catherine, and marrying and conceiving a male heir with Anne Boleyn – the drama chronicled in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.

Henry’s agents were gathering evidence that could support the move, which may be how the collection of the views of the 14th century priest and philosopher, published in 1495, came to the royal library. Ockham wrote in Latin of the limits of the power of the pope, and the independence of the authority of monarchs. Several pages in the book have key passages marked by secretaries for Henry’s attention, including one crucial section with a heading which translates as: “When it is permitted to withdraw from obedience to the pope”.

In 1532 Henry would begin exactly that process of withdrawal from Rome. In 1533, despite its refusal to annul his first marriage, he married the almost certainly pregnant Anne Boleyn. Pope Clement VII declared that Catherine was still the rightful queen of England, and Henry responded with the Act of Supremacy, establishing himself as the head of the Church of England. The breach with Rome was complete.

Carley described the discovery as thrilling.

“The book is important not only for its provenance but for the notes entered in it by Henry VIII’s advisers and no doubt intended for him to see. They draw attention to precisely the sort of issues that were so relevant to the king’s policies in the years leading up to the break with Rome.”

In the 17th century, when many books were disposed of from the royal collection, it was acquired by a Cornish scholar and chaplain, the wonderfully named Hannibal Gamon, who left his signature on the title page. He in turn left the best of his books to his friend and patron John Robartes, first Earl of Radnor, at Lanhydrock. The book has sat on the shelves, rarely opened and its importance unrecognised, shelves ever since.

The library collection at Lanhydrock is famous, the finest among the National Trust’s properties, and far older than the present imposing granite house, which is almost entirely a Victorian replacement for the Jacobean building gutted by fire, when almost all the books were saved. Although the leather covers are original, the book’s spine was replaced after the fire which helped further disguise it.

Early this year Carley was among many scholars who come to use the collection, and Holden asked him to look at two volumes with the arms of Henry and Catherine of Aragon. Carley concluded they showed royal loyalty but not royal origins, but suggested it might be worth checking the collection for books from Henry’s library.

The two men started taking down every book marked in the Lanhydrock catalogue as older than 1542, and checking them against a copy of Henry’s inventory, and within an hour, when they reached Section C of the shelves, opened the book and saw the neat small number 282.

The book will now be displayed for the first time as a star object, rather than one more brown leather book among thousands, in an exhibition, Monarchy and the Book, when the house reopens to the public on 1 March.

http://www.persecutedchurch.info/2015/06/19/henry-viiis-evidence-to-support-break-with-rome-turns-up-in-cornish-library/

Last letter of Aftab, an innocent Pak Catholic hanged yesterday

Last letter of Aftab, an innocent Pak Catholic hanged yesterday

Lahore, June 10, 2015: At 4:30 am (local time), the authorities in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore hanged Aftab Bahadur Masih, a Catholic man who was unjustly convicted in a triple murder case when he was 15. Recent pleas by the Catholic Church and human rights activists proved hopeless.

Mgr Joseph Coutts, bishop of Karachi and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, wrote a letter to President Himari Hussain, asking for a stay of execution to start fresh investigations.

Aftab was sentenced to death on 5 September 1992 for the murder of Sabiha Bari and her two sons. The following day, Ghulam Mustafa, a plumber for whom he worked as an apprentice, was arrested for complicity and tortured by police to implicate Aftab in the murder.

Only recently, the plumber admitted that Aftab Bahadur had nothing to do with the crime, and that he was only an eyewitness. He also signed an affidavit before a religious leader, stating that he had lied.

Aftab has always claimed his innocence. Over the years, he said that when he was arrested, police asked for 50,000 rupees (US$ 5,000) to let him go. As a young apprentice, he could not pay.

Last year, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, lifted the country’s moratorium on the death penalty, a day after the Taliban attacked a military school in Peshawar killing 134 students and 19 adults.

Shortly before his execution, Aftab Bahadur Masih wrote a last letter in which he expressed his feelings. Here it is.

“I just received my black warrant. It says I will be hanged by the neck until dead on Wednesday, June 10. I am innocent, but I do not know whether that will make any difference.

During the last 22 years of my imprisonment, I have received death warrants many times. It is strange, but I cannot even tell you how many times I have been told that I am about to die.

Obviously, it feels bad whenever the warrants are issued. I start to count down the days, which is in itself painful, and I find that my nerves are shackled in the same way as my body.

In truth, I die many times before my death. I suppose my life experience is different from that of most people, but I doubt there is anything more dreadful than being told that you are going to die, and then sitting in a prison cell just waiting for that moment.

For many years – since I was just 15 years old – I have been stranded between life and death. It has been a complete limbo, total uncertainty about the future.

I am a Christian, and sometimes that is difficult here. Unfortunately, there is one prisoner in particular who has tried to make our lives more difficult. I don’t know why he does it.

I got very upset over the Christian bombings that took place in Peshawar. This hurt me deeply, and I wish that Pakistani people could possess a sense of nationality that overrode their sectarianism. There is a small group of us here who are Christians, just four or five, and we are now all in one cell, which has improved my life.

I do everything I can to escape my misery. I am an art lover. I was an artist – just an ordinary one – from my early days, when I was first conscious of anything.

Even back then, I was inclined towards painting, as well as writing verses. Although I had no training, it was just a gift of God. But after I was brought to jail I had no other way to express my feelings, as I was then in a state of complete alienation and loneliness.

I began some time ago to paint all the signs for the Kot Lakhpat jail, where I am held. Then I was asked to do signs for other jails. Nothing in this world can give me more happiness than the feeling when I paint some idea, or feeling on the canvas. It is my life, so I am happy to do it. My workload is great, and I am exhausted at the end of each day, but I am glad of that, as it keeps my mind off other things.

I have no family to visit me, so when someone does come, it is a wonderful experience. It allows me to reap ideas from the outside world that I can then lay down on my canvas. Being asked about how I was tortured by the police brought back terrible memories that I turned into pictures, though it would perhaps have been better not to have to think of what the police did to try to get me to confess falsely to this crime.

When we heard the news about lifting the death penalty moratorium in December 2014, fear prevailed throughout the cells of the prison here. There was an overriding sense of horror. The atmosphere hung, gloomy, over us all. But then the executions actually started at Kot Lakhpat Jail, and everyone started to go through mental torture. Those who were being hanged had been our companions for many years on this road to death, and it is only natural that their deaths left us in a state of despair.

While the death penalty moratorium was ended on the pretext of killing terrorists, most of the people here in Kot Lakhpat are charged with regular crimes. Quite how killing them is going to stop the sectarian violence in this country, I cannot say.

I hope I do not die on Wednesday, but I have no source of money, so I can only rely on God and on my volunteer lawyers. I have not given up hope, though the night is very dark.

Bishops’ council regrets statement on Love Jihad

Bishops’ council regrets statement on Love Jihad

Thiruvananthapuram, June 15, 2015: The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) on Sunday expressed regrets over the statement of Bishop Anikushikattil on love jihad if it had hurt the sentiments of any community.

Bishop Anikuzhikkattil had accused a Hindu outfit Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam of abducting Christian girls by “love jihad.”

“Inter-caste marriages would destroy Christian essence and style. Our girls are being abducted by love jihad… secret aims of the SNDP Yogam. We should be vigilant against this,” he said at while addressing a meeting of pastoral council.

The KCBC statement maintained that the bishop’s statement was not meant to hurt the sentiments of any community.

“If his statement hurt the sentiments of any community, it is deeply regretted,” the KCBC said in its statement.

“The Bishop was only trying to explain the possible discords that might arise in inter-religious marriages,” the Council pointed out.

“The Bishop was expressing his anxiety over the conflicts and issues caused by the prevalence of neo-liberal thinking in a society like Kerala that treasures traditional family values.

“Spiritual and community leaders cannot ignore disintegration of family. What the Bishop emphasised on was that the Church should focus on providing moral training to the youth.

Bishop Anikuzhikattil kicked up a controversy and faced criticism from various quarters on Saturday when he made the allegation that the SNDP Yogam and the ‘Love Jihad’ campaign were trapping Catholic girls.

He also stated that marriages outside the religion would destroy people’s faith in the Church.

Bishop Anikuzhikattil reportedly said: “Our girls are not hesitant to renounce Christian beliefs and leave their parents to go with a Muslim or an SNDP member. This is due to lack of strong belief in Christianity. We should address this issue with utmost seriousness.”

Substantiating his remarks, Anikuzhikattil said that six out of every 100 marriages in the Kerala dioceses were “inter-caste.”

http://www.persecutedchurch.info/2015/06/16/bishops-council-regrets-statement-on-love-jihad/

Modi failed to protect Christians: Cardinal Toppo

Modi failed to protect Christians: Cardinal Toppo

Ranchi, June 16, 2015: Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has failed to keep his promise on action to protect Christians under increasing threat from extremist violence, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo has said.

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Cardinal Toppo, also the Archbishop of Ranchi, highlighted the need for government action to protect Christians and vulnerable religious minorities in India amid a rise in attacks by Hindu radicals.

“They have not come out to protect and defend. The Prime Minister has only once spoken in defense of the constitution and he promised to protect the Christians and other minorities. But that was only a promise,” he said.

However, he said that Modi’s speech gave some “assurance” of the government’s commitment to tackling violence and other extremism against Christians.

Reports, including the latest US Commission on International Religious Freedom released in late April, have described a marked rise in anti-Christian violence, and last month there were up to five incidents in one week.

Cardinal Toppo stressed that violence by radical Hindu organisations and the emerging ‘homecoming’ movement remained a major threat to Christians.

Responding to reports of increased violence and localized attacks by Hindu extremists, the cardinal stressed that the unification of the Church was key to the survival of Christianity in India.

Calling for solidarity amongst Christians worldwide, he said, “I believe that the Church has played an important role, directly or indirectly in keeping India united. Yes, because, although we are of different culture, different language and different parts of India, still we belong to one Catholic Church.”

He added “We want solidarity in every respect. Our Church is one. In the same way that there is only one world, it is the same that the Catholic Church is one everywhere.”

http://www.persecutedchurch.info/2015/06/16/modi-failed-to-protect-christians-cardinal-toppo/

Francis approves process of accountability for bishops on sexual abuse

Francis approves process of accountability for bishops on sexual abuse

Vatican, June 10, 2015: Pope Francis has approved the outline of a new system of accountability for Catholic bishops who do not appropriately handle accusations of clergy sexual abuse, in what could be a breakthrough moment on an issue that has plagued the church globally.

Proposed by Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley at the behest of the pope’s commission on clergy sexual abuse, the system gives power to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge bishops “with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors.”

It would also see the establishment of a new office at the congregation to undertake work as a tribunal to judge such bishops.

Such a system will be a first at the Vatican, where bishops have long held near impunity with regard to their actions or inactions on clergy sexual abuse. In the Catholic church, only the pope can fire prelates — a process that, if it ever occurs, normally takes years or even decades.

Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said that while that firing power ultimately remains with Francis, the pope accepts the decisions of those he puts in such tribunal offices.

“If the pope says that [this is] the judgment and the competence of the tribunal, then normally the pope accepts the judgment of the tribunal,” said Lombardi, responding to a question from NCR at a press conference Wednesday announcing the new system.

Lombardi said the pontiff had approved the system following unanimous consent on the matter during discussions Monday among the nine-member Council of Cardinals, the group of prelates advising Francis on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy.

O’Malley is the only American member of that group and is also the head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The new accountability system, which the Vatican said was developed by the pontifical commission, contains a set of five points agreed upon by the pope. The pope, the Vatican said, mandated that the points are to be established for a five-year period and “authorized that sufficient resources will be provided for this purpose.”

The points are clearly not in the usual form for Vatican mandates — which normally are promulgated in a sometimes lengthy and legalistic note known as a motu proprio — suggesting that Francis wanted to move forward quickly on the accountability process without waiting for different departments to draft language.

The first of the five points states that there is a “duty” to report “allegations of the abuse of office by a bishop connected to the abuse of minors” to the Vatican, specifically the three congregations which oversee bishops: the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

The second point of the agreement then gives power to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge bishops, and the third calls for the creation of a new judicial section in that congregation along with the appointment of “stable personnel to undertake service in the Tribunal.”

The fourth point obliges the pope to appoint a new secretary, or second-in-command, for the doctrinal congregation to head the tribunal and to work with the congregation’s prefect, German Cardinal Gerhard Muller.

The fifth point of the outline establishes the five-year period “for further development of these proposals and for completing a formal evaluation of their effectiveness.”

The points do not specifically clarify who has the duty to report abuses of office by bishops and how those reports might be transferred by the Vatican congregations that oversee bishops to the doctrinal congregation for judgment.

The points also do not indicate how a bishop who comes under judgment will be able to defend himself, although presumably final recourse would rest with the pope.

The question of accountability for bishops who mishandle abuse cases has long been seen as the most unresolved issue in the church’s response to clergy sexual abuse.

In one example of the Vatican’s slow action on the issue, U.S. Bishop Robert Finn was allowed to remain in office for two and a half years after becoming the first prelate criminally convicted of mishandling an abusive priest.

Francis accepted Finn’s resignation in April with a terse Vatican note that gave no reason for the move.

The leader of a website that tracks clergy sexual abuse said that while the new system was a “promising step” it would require “a courage and an aggressive commitment that have so far been sadly lacking, despite the innovations of Pope Francis.”

“This system will be coping with the complex interactions of enabling and offending that we see in cases involving bishops,” said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org.

“Priests abuse children and so do bishops — bishops who offend are inevitably enablers, and the Commission’s plan must confront that sad fact,” he said.

The Vatican’s doctrinal congregation is already tasked with investigating cases of priests accused of sexual abuse. Last November, Francis also created a new review board inside the congregation to speed up review of appeals by priests found guilty of abuse.

The Council of Cardinals, which was meeting at the Vatican for its tenth in-person encounter Monday-Wednesday, has been known to be discussing the issue of bishops’ accountability for months. Lombardi said in April that the group had put the issue “on the table” at O’Malley’s insistence.

Other members of the cardinals’ group include Australian Cardinal George Pell, who has come under scrutiny for his own actions handling sexually abusive priests during the proceedings of Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

http://www.persecutedchurch.info/2015/06/16/francis-approves-process-of-accountability-for-bishops-on-sexual-abuse/

Vandalization of Prayer House in Coimbatore. Police Swing into Action Only After CSF Complaint

Vandalization of Prayer House in Coimbatore. Police Swing into Action Only After CSF Complaint

8th June 2015 – Its been a week that the Coimbatore Police was informed that several statues of Jesus Christ, Mother Mary and St. Joseph were vandalised by unknown miscreants at a prayer house in Tamil Nadu. Garfield Jansen, who set up the prayer house on 1497 Trichy Road, stores and distributes freely religious articles has been running from pillar to post to recover the lost valuables and also punish the guilty. This in spite of the issue making the news and the police being well in the know of it.

It has been of no avail and so, a visibly disturbed Garfield Jansen came to Mumbai to meet with us at the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), where I lost no time to get in touch with the Coimbatore Police Commissioner’s office, who directed the complaint to the Race Course Police station and within minutes, the senior inspector got in touch and assured action will promptly be taken.

The CSF has called for immediate registration of an FIR and told the police that we would follow-up unless action was taken. If nothing is done in a week, we will request you to send emails to the commissioner and other officials.

Garfield Jansen has traveled to various Catholic pilgrim center around the world and collected sacred relics, medals, statues, souveniers, mementoes, etc. which have been blessed by even Pope Francis and now laments that all had been reduced to rubble.

His 94 year-old mother who lives in the place, has had to shift residence out of fear. Theft does not seem to be the motive as the heinous manner in which the statues were desecrated – especially all heads of St. Joseph’s statue, which is why Garfield thought of coming to me – clearly indicates that stealing was not the only motive. Further, according to him, the sacred books and writings were dumped into the near-by gutter and covered with mud. Why would a robber do such a thing is what the CSF asked the police?

The prayer house is within a kilometer of the police commissioner / B4 police station and in the Coimbatore Latin diocese, with the Syro Malabar rite also operating under the diocese of Ramanathapuram, whose bishop has expressed distress.