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Catholic Diocese promises to help people in quake-hit Taiwan

Catholic Church in Taiwan has pledged help to the victims after the strongest earthquake in decades left nine dead, over 800 injured and damaged dozens of buildings

Published: April 05, 2024 11:18 AM GMT

Updated: April 05, 2024 11:19 AM GMT

After the strongest earthquake in decades hit Taiwan leaving nine people dead and over 800 injured on Tuesday, Hualien Catholic Diocese in Taiwan has mourned the dead and promised to support affected communities. Hualien is on the eastern coast of Taiwan and is among those most affected by the strongest quake in about 25 years.

Media reports say the epicenter of the 7.4-magnitude quake was 18 kilometers south of Hualien City, at a depth of 34.8 kilometers. In a statement, the diocese said it contacted all parishes to express condolences and offer prayers and found that except for some parishes, there have been no reports of serious damage.

The earthquake was felt across the entire island and damaged many buildings. It prompted Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines to issue tsunami warnings, which were later lifted.

In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan and killed 2,400, making it the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s history.

Earthquake affected people enter a tent at a temporary reception center set up at a local school in Hualien on April 3, 2024, after a major earthquake hit east Taiwan. At least nine people were killed and more than 1,000 injured on April 3 by the powerful earthquake that damaged dozens of buildings

Earthquake affected people enter a tent at a temporary reception center set up at a local school in Hualien on April 3, 2024, after a major earthquake hit east Taiwan. At least nine people were killed and more than 1,000 injured on April 3 by the powerful earthquake that damaged dozens of buildings. (Photo: AFP)

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Indonesian Catholics have expressed joy and enthusiasm after the government confirmed Pope Francis’ visit to the Muslim-majority nation in September.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Indonesia on Sept. 3, Minister of Religion Yaqut Cholil Quomas said in a statement last Saturday. The visit was expected as President Joko Widodo had invited the pope for a visit in June 2022.

Pope Francis (Photo: AFP)

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo, archbishop of Jakarta, told UCA News that the Indonesian Bishops' Conference will make an official announcement on April 8. A source at the bishops’ conference said that the pope might only visit Jakarta, considering his weak physical condition.

Media reports earlier speculated that the pope may also visit Kalimantan and Flores, two regions with a sizable number of Catholics. The pope will visit Indonesia and neighboring Timor-Leste during the September trip to Asia. Pope Francis was supposed to visit Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and Papua New Guinea in 2020 but canceled the trip due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A pro-Hindu group has demanded a federal probe into Catholic charity Caritas India, saying its activities threaten India's national, social, and economic security.

The Legal Rights Protection Forum, which is aligned with the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has written to the federal home ministry, seeking a probe into the social service agency of the Catholic Church.

Caritas India’s humanitarian activities among India’s downtrodden people have always invited the wrath of pro-Hindu groups. (Photo: caritasindia.org)

The group also sought to cancel Caritas India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act or FCRA license, which is necessary to receive donations from outside the country. It accused the agency of projecting tribal people and Dalits as “the only poor in India” and trying “to divide society.” Dalits and tribals make up nearly 26 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people.

A Caritas India official dismissed the allegations as false and baseless. Observers note that the move is an attempt to create discord among people ahead of national elections starting April 19. Modi and his BJP are seeking a third consecutive term in office.

About 200 Christians in Pakistan’s Punjab province were forced to hold Easter services in a hotel after a mysterious fire gutted their church. The fire broke out early morning at the United Presbyterian Church in Gujar Khan town last Saturday. The fire burnt much of the interiors including the furniture.

Pastor Adeem Alfonce said they were satisfied with the ongoing investigations. Christians expressed dismay as the pastor retracted his earlier statement claiming police were “trying to save a businessman who has financial, political and social influence.”

People outside the gutted Presbyterian church of Gujar Khan, Punjab province in Pakistan. (Photo courtesy Jalal TV)

Muslim businessman Sheikh Ahmed who owns an under-construction shopping plaza near the church has been allegedly attempting to take over a piece of government land near the church.

Shortly after the fire, about 500 Christians protested in front of the church demanding justice. Attacks on Churches are common in Pakistan. Last year, 23 churches were attacked and vandalized including 22 churches in a Christian colony in Jaranwala of Punjab.

Sri Lankan Catholic Church has expressed dismay over the visit by the nation's police chief to St. Sebastian's Church, one of three churches bombed during the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.

During a press conference on Wednesday, the church’s parish priest Father Manjula Niroshan condemned Inspector General of Police Deshbandu Tennakoon for the unwarranted visit. Police claimed Tennakoon paid the visit to inspect security, enquire about the well-being of and distribute dry ration parcels among Easter Sunday attack victims from the village.

Devotees carry a partly damaged statue of Jesus salvaged from rubble after the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings on St. Sebastian's Church on March 31. (Photo: AFP)

Catholic Church has repeatedly slammed Tennakoon for his alleged inaction on intelligence warnings about the impending attack. Earlier, a presidential commission recommended disciplinary action against him for failing to provide security or inform priests of the threats.

Despite the allegations and strong opposition from the Church, Tennakoon was recently appointed as the national police chief. The Sri Lankan Church has planned a protest march on the fifth anniversary of the bombings on April 21.

The Kachin Independence Army or KIA in Myanmar’s Kachin state has claimed control of the last junta outpost along a 60-km stretch of road leading to a border zone with China. This came as China launched its second and final day of live-fire exercises near its border with Myanmar.

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Reports say the ethnic rebel group had gained full control of the road from Momauk on Wednesday where at least five civilians were killed by a junta airstrike two days ago amid army attempts to halt the advance and protect its last outpost in the area from falling into anti-regime hands.

Displaced Kachin residents cross the Malikha river on a ferry to escapefighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Myanmar government troops in this April 26, 2018 file photo. This week the KIA claimed control of the last junta outpost along a 60km-stretch of road in Kachin state leading to the frontier with China. (Photo:AFP)

The KIA is one of about 20 groups aligned with the Peoples Defence Force— the armed wing of the National Unity Government, Myanmar's government-in-exile.

So far, the KIA has taken 63 military bases and outposts. A majority of Kachin people are Christians, and the state has seen fierce battles between the military and rebels in recent months.

The Philippines Church has extended support to the Ati tribal people who are struggling to protect their government-awarded land from corporations on Boracay Island, one of the most popular tourist spots in the country.

In a statement last week, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, head of Catholic charity Caritas Philippines, said the Church supports Ati people in their bid to assert their lawful rights on the land and hailed them as “stewards of the land for generations.”

Members of the Missionaries of Charity interact with ethnic Ati tribal people. (Photo: Jimmy Domingo)

He urged all parties to respect the land rights of Ati people. In 2018, the government of former President Rodrigo Duterte awarded land to the tribe’s people under the Certificate of Land Ownership Award to help them overcome poverty.

However, the allocation was canceled last year. Despite filing motions for reconsideration at regional and central levels, their requests were denied. Rights groups say without land titles Ati people face displacement like many tribal groups in the country.

Catholic charity Caritas Hong Kong has launched a new board game to help elderly people view life and death positively and learn about end-of-life preparation. The "Wisdom of Life" was launched at the Caritas-run Cheng Shing Fung Elderly Community Center under its hospice care program last week.

The game can help players see life from the perspective of death, cherish the present more, and plan for the rest of their lives. The initiative comes in response to healthcare challenges and an aging population.

An elderly woman pushes her trolleys up a hill in Hong Kong on Oct. 5, 2022. (Photo: Peter Parks/AFP)

Hong Kong has been grappling with an impending demographic crisis fueled by a falling birth rate and a rising elderly population. The elderly population aged 65 and older is projected to rise from 20.5 percent in 2021 to 36 percent in 2046.

With the current trend of low birth rate, the city will have the world’s highest percentage of elderly population by 2050 with an estimated 40.6 percent.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of South Korea has released the results of its survey ahead of the national assembly polls on April 10.

The survey titled, "22nd National Assembly Election Policy Questionnaire," included 43 questions covering eight areas, which received responses from three of the four political parties to whom it was sent.

South Korea's ruling People Power Party campaigners wave during a campaign ahead of the parliamentary elections in Seoul on March 28. The East Asian nation goes to polls on April 10. (Photo: AFP)

The bishops' conference secretariat said that it would send the survey results to the dioceses in the country.

The data gathered from the survey can be used to “verify the policies of parliamentary candidates running for office.”

The survey questionnaire covered topics such as labor, national reconciliation, social welfare, bioethics, ecology and environment, women, justice and peace, and youth, among others.

Topics such as the abolition of the death penalty, issues related to nuclear disarmament, and the enactment of a special law on the Itaewon tragedy saw varied responses from the parties.

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