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Indian Dalit Catholics celebrate first cardinal

Catholics in Asia cheered as Pope Francis named six new cardinals from the continent including the first cardinal from the marginalized Dalit community.

Published: June 03, 2022 11:07 AM GMT

Updated: June 06, 2022 04:30 AM GMT

Pope Francis named 21 new cardinals including six from Asia last Sunday. The new cardinals will receive their coveted red hats during a consistory in the Vatican on August 27.

Archbishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad in India is the first cardinal from the marginalized Dalit community while Archbishop Felipe Nerri of Goa and Daman comes from a Catholic stronghold. Archbishop William Goh of Singapore and Archbishop Dom Vigilio da Silva of Dili of Timor-Leste are the first cardinals from their nations.

Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, is the fourth cardinal from South Korea. Italian Consolata missionary Bishop Giorgio Marengo, who leads one of the world’s smallest Catholic communities of about 1,400 Catholics in Mongolia, will be the youngest member of the College of Cardinals.

The pope’s latest move of bypassing traditional cardinal seats once again reaffirms his pastoral vision of going to the “peripheries” – or putting spotlights on small but emerging churches in the world.

Archbishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad is to be made a cardinal in the August 2022 consistory

Archbishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad is to be made a cardinal in the August 2022 consistory. (Photo supplied)  

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For the first time in 33 years, there will be no church services in Hong Kong on June 4 to commemorate communist China’s brutal crackdown on Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing administration banned once-packed candlelit vigils in 2020 following the imposition of a draconian national security law and numerous pro-democracy activists and supporters have been arrested and jailed. Authorities have also forcibly closed the Tiananmen Museum and pulled down memorial statues.

A woman holds candles in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on June 4, 2021, after police closed the venue where Hong Kong people traditionally gather annually to mourn the victims of China's Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.  (Photo: AFP)

The vigils and Masses in Hong Kong were among the last reminders of the deadly suppression of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square of Beijing. Church officials said the events have been cancelled out of fear of falling foul of Hong Kong authorities and breaching of the law.

The suppression of a public commemoration of the massacre is another sign of the massive erosion of democracy and freedom in the former British colony once known as one of the world’s freest cities. 

Rights watchdog Amnesty International has accused Myanmar’s military junta of committing war crimes including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and forcible displacement of civilians in two Christian-majority regions.

Amnesty released a new report on Wednesday titled “Bullets rained from the sky: War crimes and displacement in eastern Myanmar.” It found Myanmar’s military had subjected Karen and Kayah civilians to collective punishment via widespread aerial and ground attacks, arbitrary detentions that often resulted in torture or extrajudicial executions, and the systematic looting and burning of villages.

Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) female members take part in a training session at their base camp in a forest near Demoso in Myanmar's Kayah state on May 24. (Photo: KNDF/AFP)

The report said an eruption of violence in Kayin and Kayah states from December 2021 to March 2022 left hundreds of civilians dead and more than 150,000 displaced.

During this period scores of civilian homes, schools, health facilities, churches and monasteries were destroyed in 24 artillery and mortar attacks. At least 10 churches including eight Catholic ones have also been destroyed.

In India, two recent cases have brought to the fore abuses of Indian Christians on the pretext of religious conversion under the rule of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

Christians in the eastern state of Odisha expressed frustration after authorities sealed off Believers’ Church in Geltua village and barred more than 100 Christians from attending Sunday services. Police said the church was put under restrictions after they received a complaint of it being used as a center for the conversion of tribal people.

A Christian devotee prays during a Palm Sunday service outside the Wesley Church in Secunderabad in Andhra Pradesh, India, on March 28, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Christian leaders dismissed the allegation and said the move was part of long-running persecution of Christians in the state.

Meanwhile, police in the western state of Goa have launched a probe against a Protestant pastor and his wife after accusing them of forced conversion. Pastor Dominic D’Souza and wife Joan are facing a charge of converting two people by offering money and gifts.

A major Christian group in Indonesia urged the military to ensure the safety of people after a video of a large motorcycle rally by Muslim extremists calling for an Islamic caliphate went viral on social media.

Reverend Gomar Gultom, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, made the call during a meeting with the army’s chief of staff General Dudung Abdurachman in capital Jakarta.

Reverend Gomar Gultom (right), chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, speaks with army chief of staff General Dudung Abdurachman on May 31 in Jakarta. (Photo supplied)

In the viral video, dozens of motorcyclists in green uniforms carried placards with messages that read “Welcome the Awakening of the Islamic Caliphate”. They also distributed leaflets containing extremist content on the streets of Jakarta.

Security officials said a similar rally took place in Brebes district of Central Java province. The video sparked condemnation from religious groups who said such rallies would embolden hardliners and cause division and disunity in the country.

A top university in the Philippines is set to open a museum in memory of victims of the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos Senior. News of the first state-funded museum for martial law victims emerged only weeks after Marcos’s son became the nation’s president with a landslide victory.

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The University of the Philippines said the Freedom Memorial Museum will open on its Diliman campus in September. Among other things, it will preserve a list of victims of the dictator’s regime and house memorabilia, artifacts, educational material and audiovisual content.

A former political prisoner looks at a Wall of Remembrance in Quezon City, suburban Manila, with the names of victims from the martial law era during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in the 1970s. (Photo: AFP)

The dictatorship of Marcos from 1972 until his ouster in a population revolution in 1986 is regarded as the darkest chapter in the Philippines’ history due to extreme corruption, extravagance and brutality against dissent.

Rights groups say at least 3,200 people were killed and more than 70,000 imprisoned during that period. 

Catholics in South Korea marched on the streets and joined discussions, debates and cultural programs to call on their government to change its policies on the environment. They demanded a halt to nuclear energy and a reduction of fossil fuel use to tackle the global climate crisis.

The series of programs in Catholic dioceses were part of the Church’s observance of Laudato Si’ Week from May 22-29. The week celebrates the landmark 2015 environmental encyclical of Pope Francis.

An aerial view of the 2.1-gigawatt coal power plant being constructed in Samcheok city in Gangwon province of South Korea. (Photo: www.forourclimate.org)

Catholic activists said the government must end its anti-environment policies that are adding to the climate crisis. They demanded all nuclear power plants should be phased out and no coal-fired plant should be constructed.

Despite the government passing a carbon neutrality law in 2021, South Korea remains one of the world’s biggest carbon polluters and coal importers. The government has yet to succeed in introducing renewable energy to replace nuclear power.

Catholic bishops in Vietnam have urged people to stay away from a banned group of exorcists, warning that their practice goes against Catholic teaching.

Bishop John Do Van Ngan, head of the Catholic bishops’ commission for the doctrine of faith, said that since 2015 a group of Catholics have mistakenly claimed they possess the divine power of healing people from diseases and driving out evil spirits as God has chosen them as “secretaries.”

Teresa Nguyen Thi Thuong talks about exorcism in 2021. (Photo supplied)

The group have attracted some priests and religious, prompting other people to follow them blindly. The group from Bao Loc Parish in Da Lat Diocese have been accused disobeying the local bishop and damaging the unity of the local Church.

Bishop Dominic Nguyen Van Manh banned the group’s leader Teresa Nguyen Thi Thuong from attending church services and receiving sacraments after she refused to stop exorcisms at her home. The bishop also suspended senior priest Father Dominic Nguyen Chu Truyen from priestly duties for joining the group. 

Hundreds of Catholic joined celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Bangladesh last Friday.

The day-long events in capital Dhaka had an inaugural session and seminar at the CBCB center and a public Mass at Holy Rosary Church in the presence of all the country’s bishops, archbishops and apostolic nuncio Archbishop George Kocherry.

Clergy, religious and laypeople attend the 50th anniversary of Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh in capital Dhaka on May 27. (Photo: UCA News)

During the seminar, Catholic religious and laypeople called on church leaders to make better efforts to empower laypeople, especially women, in the decision-making process in local and national church bodies.

The CBCB was established in 1971 shortly after Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan following a brief but brutal war. Christians are a miniscule minority, making up less than half of percent of more than 160 million people in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. About 400,000 Catholics are spread across eight Catholic dioceses.

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