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Fifth bishop consecrated under Sino-Vatican deal

Catholics in Asia have experienced both joy and grief this week with clergy ordinations in China and Vietnam and the battle against natural disasters, coronavirus and repressive regimes.

Published: July 30, 2021 11:16 AM GMT

Updated: July 30, 2021 04:13 PM GMT

Catholics in China have witnessed the consecration of the fifth bishop under the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement. The 49-year-old Father Anthony Li Hui was ordained as coadjutor bishop of Pingliang Diocese in Gansu province in northwestern China on Wednesday.

He is recognized by the communist government and the Catholic Church. The Sino-Vatican deal, whose provisions have still not been made public, reportedly allows the pope to approve and veto bishops approved by the Chinese Communist Party.

Bishop Li is the third Catholic bishop ordained since the deal was renewed for another two years in October 2020. The consecration ceremony took place at the cathedral of Pingliang presided by Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming, president of the state-sanctioned Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China.

Several bishops and about 200 Catholics, including 30 priests, 20 nuns and representatives from state-aligned church bodies, also attended the ceremony.

Fifth bishop consecrated under Sino-Vatican deal

Father Anthony Li Hui is ordained as coadjutor bishop of Pingliang diocese in China’s northwestern Gansu province on July 28. (Photo:www.chinacatholic.cn)

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A Catholic priest in Tamil Nadu state in southern India was arrested and placed under 15-day judicial custody after he was accused of charges including hate speech. Father George Ponnaiah was arrested last Saturday after Hindu groups threatened to launch protests.

The priest was accused of hate speech in a video that went viral on social media and allegedly contained objectionable statements against Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK party and leaders of India’s ruling BJP party including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

Father George Ponnaiah denies hurting religious sentiments. (Photo: YouTube)

In a statement before his arrest, the priest denied the charges, claimed the original video was doctored to trap him and issued an apology. Some Christian leaders consider the arrest of the priest as an attempt to terrorize people who speak up against the pro-Hindu BJP and other radical organizations.

Meanwhile, the latest report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India, an alliance of evangelical and Protestant Christians, documented 145 cases of anti-Christian violence during the first half of 2021. It listed three murders, attacks or desecration of 22 places of worship, and 20 cases of social boycotts of Christian families when they refused to renounce their faith.

India is among the South Asian countries where heavy monsoon rain triggered flooding and landslides leaving dozens dead and scores injured. In At least 207 people died in Maharashtra state and dozens in other states.

Tens of thousands have been evacuated from flood-hit regions. The government and aid agencies including church groups in Catholic dioceses have rushed to rescue and support thousands of affected communities.

Villagers console a woman who lost a relative following a landslide at Taliye, near Mahad city, on July 24 as the death toll from floods and landslides in western India rose to more than 160. (Photo: AFP)

In neighboring Bangladesh, at least 14 people including six Rohingya refugees died after heavy rain sparked flash floods and landslides in Cox’s Bazar district. Local people, volunteers and law enforcers joined hands to pull out hundreds of refugees from heaps of mud as floodwater triggered landslides and their shelters collapsed.

Bangladeshi authorities joined aid groups including Catholic charity Caritas to help victims.

The return of a Hindu girl who was abducted and forced to marry a Muslim man in Sindh province of Pakistan is being seen a rare victory for minorities in a country battling forced conversion of girls.

Reena Meghwar returned to her parents with the help of local authorities on Monday. She was kidnapped on February 13 and forcibly married by a Muslim called Qasim Kashkheli. After her video detailing her ordeal went viral on social media, the provincial government ordered police to locate and produce the girl in a local court.

Reena Meghwar, who was abducted and forcibly married by a Muslim man, is reunited with her family in Sindh province, Pakistan, on July 26. (Photo supplied)

Police also arrested four people for abducting and torturing her. Forced conversion and marriage continue to haunt minorities in Pakistan. According to the Lahore-based Center for Social Justice, 162 cases of questionable conversions of minority girls and women were reported in Pakistan’s media between 2013 and 2020.

About 54 percent of victims belonged to the Hindu community, while 44 percent were Christians. 

The death of a 16-year-old girl following torture including burn injuries allegedly inflicted by her employer has highlighted the issue of slavery of children and women in Sri Lanka and triggered nationwide protests.

Activists claimed there have been several similar cases recently but those didn’t garner media attention or yield justice. Police arrested three suspects including the wife of former cabinet minister and Muslim lawmaker Rishad Bathiudeen as the victim sustained injuries while working in their residence.

Thousands of impoverished women and children leave tea plantations to do menial work for the wealthy in Sri Lankan capital Colombo. (Photo: YouTube)

Following the protests, police launched a special operation to raid households that employ children under the age of 16 as domestic workers. Rights activists claim various sectors including the tea industry employ many children who are exploited and abused.

Authority has received 12,165 child abuse complaints in the last 18 months. It has also received 48,000 calls regarding children this year.

A female Catholic weightlifter who won the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games has thanked the Virgin Mary for her success.

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Hidilyn Diaz bagged gold on Monday after lifting a combined weight of 224 kilograms in the women's 55-kilogram category. Diaz raised one hand while clutching a devotional medal of Mary on her chest.

This screengrab shows Philippine weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz lifting for gold at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on July 26. (Photo: YouTube)

The Miraculous Medal she was wearing was designed by St. Catherine Laboure, who claimed to see apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Paris, France, in 1830. Diaz later said she and her friends had prayed the novena to the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal for her success.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued a statement expressing its “pride and joy” at Diaz’ inspirational win.

On an anti-climactic note, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte shocked his nation as he used his final State of the Nation address to hail his five-year drug war that has allegedly killed thousands of people.

During the address on Monday, he also said the drug war will continue. Duterte will step down as president next year when his six-year term ends before the May 9 election.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte defends his war on drugs during his State of the Nation Address on July 26. (Photo: Richard Madelo)

He has projected his daughter as the candidate for president and himself as vice president as the electoral system allows only a single term for a president.

Duterte described drug dealers as “slow killers” of the country who must be eliminated and hit out at the International Criminal Court, which seeks to charge Duterte for crimes against humanity for mass killings of drug suspects.

A Catholic diocese in Vietnam is set to commission newly ordained priests to work in another remote diocese that suffers from severe shortage in vocation. 

Bishop Alfonse Nguyen Huu Long of Vinh Diocese ordained 34 priests aged 32-50 at Xa Doai Cathedral in Nghe An province last Sunday.  Bishop Long said his diocese is blessed to have an abundance of priestly and religious vocations, and thousands join various religious orders and societies.

Bishop Alfonse Nguyen Huu Long ordains priests at Xa Doai Cathedral in Nghe An province on July 25. (Photo: UCA News)

The prelate said half of the newly ordained priests will go to Hung Hoa Diocese where he served as auxiliary bishop for five and a half years. It covers 10 provinces and is the largest diocese in Vietnam in terms of area.

However, it used to have only 12 priests serving 200,000 Catholics, prompting Bishop John Vu Tat to request other dioceses to lend priests to work there.

The Indonesian Medical Association has slammed the government’s self-isolation policy and demanded an overhaul after thousands of Covid-19 victims died at home due to lack of medical supervision.

The association said at least 2,313 patients have died at home since the lethal Delta variant of the virus hit the country a few weeks ago.

The body of a Covid-19 victim is buried in Jakarta. (Photo: Social Affairs Ministry)

The group said the government should set up field hospitals to provide better medical care to thousands of patients who appear to have no or mild symptoms and are forced to self-isolate as hospitals are full.

Indonesia has become the epicenter of the pandemic in Asia and had recorded 3.29 million cases and more than 88,600 deaths as of Thursday.

An evangelical pastor in Singapore faced a heavy social media backlash after he made controversial comments relating to the recent murder of a teenage student by a senior classmate.

During a discussion with a woman on the official Instagram page of the Singapore Gospel Light Church, Pastor Jason Lim said it was more important to repent for sins than to tackle mental health problems. They were discussing a 16-year-old student using an axe to murder a 13-year-old student in a toilet at River Valley High School on July 19.

Students leave the River Valley High School in Singapore on July 19 after a 13-year-old boy was found dead on the premises with multiple wounds and a fellow student was arrested. (Photo: AFP)

The discussion was heavily ridiculed by netizens sites, prompting the church to delete the messages. Social media users termed the pastor's comments “shocking, disrespectful and hurtful.” The murder suspect reportedly has a history of mental problems and attempted to commit suicide in 2019.

A 2016 study found one in seven people in Singapore has experienced mental disorders and more than three-quarters never sought professional help. In 2019, 71 people aged 20-29 committed suicide.

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