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Philippine diocese seeks sainthood of lay catechist from Manila

A Filipino Catholic laywoman who quit her job to become a full-time volunteer catechist is slated for sainthood

Published: March 01, 2024 11:23 AM GMT

Updated: March 01, 2024 11:26 AM GMT

Filipino Catholics have hailed a Church move seeking sainthood for a laywoman who quit her job to become a volunteer catechist to serve people.

In a circular posted on its official Facebook page, Pasig diocese announced last Saturday it has started the sainthood process for Laureana Franco who died from cancer at the age of 75 in 2011. In a directive, Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara said they have started the process as required by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of the Saints.

Born in 1936, Franco worked as a telephone switchboard operator and an accounting clerk in the Philippine Air Force. She quit her job opting to work as a volunteer catechist in St. Anne parish in Taguig, a southeastern Manila suburb.

She received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, the highest papal honor for laypeople and clergy, in 1990. In 2002, she received the Mother Teresa Award for her work for poor and marginalized people.

Laureana Franco.

Laureana Franco. (Photo: pintakasiph.wordpress.com)

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Malaysia’s Federal Court has upheld a government ban on a book by an openly gay pastor offering alternative Christian perspectives on homosexuality. The book ‘Gay is OK! A Christian Perspective’ was published in 2013 and openly sold until 2020 when the government banned it, saying it was inappropriate under the printing and publication law.

Homosexuality is illegal in the Muslim-majority nation and is punishable by caning and up to 20 years in jail. Author Ngeo Boon Lin and the publisher, Gerakbudaya, appealed the ban but it was dismissed by the top court.

Dust jacket of the book 'Gay is OK! A Christian Perspective.' (Photo: Article19)

Human rights organization Article 19 slammed the ban, saying it was muzzling alternative views and discouraging open discourse and diversity of thought.

Ngeo co-founded a gay-friendly Protestant church near Kuala Lumpur in 2007 and then left for the US where he led a congregation at the Metropolitan Community Church for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in New York.

Tribal leaders in India’s Manipur state have accused government officials of suspending food supply to thousands of mostly Christian displaced people, pushing them to starvation in relief camps.

Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum submitted a complaint to Federal Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday accusing a top state official in Chura-chandpur district of refusing to release food grains for some 17,000 displaced people since Feb. 16.

People gather at a relief camp for displaced tribal people in Churachandpur after deadly ethnic violence in India's troubled Manipur state divided communities, on July 25, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

An estimated 50,000 people were displaced in Manipur following ethnic violence between the Hindu majority Meitei community and the Kuki-Zo tribal community that started last May. The violence left more than 200 dead, some 350 churches and Christian institutions, and thousands of Christian homes destroyed.

The ethnic clashes erupted after tribal groups opposed a state move to grant tribal status to relatively wealthy and politically influential Meitei community. Sporadic violence between ethnic groups continues in the state.

Cambodia’s long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party has secured absolute majority in the Senate by winning 55 out of 58 seats at elections last Sunday. Former prime minister Hun Sen was elected Senate president, which will enable him to stand in as head of state in absence of King Norodom Sihamoni.

Analysts said the results would further secure Hun Sen’s family power structure and were widely anticipated given a long-running crackdown on the political opposition. The CPP won 120 of the 125 seats at the National Assembly elections in July.

Former Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen casts his vote at a polling station during the Senate election in Takhmao city, Kandal province on Feb 25. (Photo: AFP)

Hun Sen transferred power to his eldest son Hun Manet in August and his youngest son, Hun Many, became a deputy prime minister last month. Rights groups say democracy has diminished under the CPP regime that ruled the country since 1979 after the end of the civil war.

The regime banned opposition parties, arrested and jailed dozens of opposition leaders and activists, and shut down independent media. 

Islamic and religious minority groups in Indonesia have welcomed a government plan to offer services of the Religious Affairs Office to people of all faiths in the Muslim-majority nation.

On Monday, Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said the government aims to offer premises of the Religious Affairs Office for conducting weddings to religious groups that do not have places of worship. The plan also includes allowing non-Muslims to register their marriages with the office.

Indonesia's Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas. (Photo: Supplied)

The Religious Affairs Office is under the Directorate General of Islamic Community Guidance and is spread across regencies and cities in the country. Until now, it mostly offered services to Muslims. Besides Christian groups, moderate Islamic groups like Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah have backed the plan.

About 87 percent of Indonesia’s estimated 279 million people are Muslims, about 7 percent are Protestants, 2.9 percent Catholics, and 1.7 percent Hindus.Other religions include Buddhism, Confucianism, Gafatar, Judaism, and traditional indigenous religions.

Contentious blasphemy issue has come to the fore again in Pakistan with two recent incidents sparking tensions. Last Sunday, a police officer rescued a woman accused of blasphemy from a mob of 200 men in a market in Lahore. The mob wrongly claimed her shirt was adorned with verses from the Koran.

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Earlier last Friday, thousands of people marched on the streets after a top judge ordered the release of a man accused of blasphemy. A campaign targeting Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa began after he ordered the release of a man from the Ahmadi religious sect, considered heretical by hardline Muslim scholars.

Syeda Shehrbano Naqvi, an assistant superintendent with Punjab police speaks during an interview with AFP at her office in Lahore on Feb. 27. (Photo: AFP)

The man had been accused of committing blasphemy by disseminating a forbidden Ahmadi text. About 3,000 people gathered at rallies across the northwestern city of Peshawar after Friday prayers.

Blasphemy is a serious criminal offense that warrants death and life sentence in Pakistan. In the past years, mobs have lynched people they deem to have insulted Islam or Prophet Muhammad.

Church-run hospitals in South Korea have expressed concern over mass walkouts by doctors protesting against a government plan for reforms in the medical sector.

Government officials said more than 8,800 junior doctors or about 71 percent of the trainee workforce have walked out to oppose the plan to sharply increase medical school admissions. The government defended the move by citing the ratio of low doctor numbers — only 2.5 per 1,000 people and a rapidly aging population.

Doctors shout slogans during a rally to protest against a government plan to raise the annual enrolment quota in medical schools, near the Presidential Office in Seoul on Feb. 25, 2024. (Photo: AFP)

Protesters say the current infrastructure is insufficient to train more medical students and could lead to a decline in the quality of medical professionals. Officials at Church-run hospitals in Seoul, Eunpyeong, Uijeongbu, and Bucheon have warned of service disruption should the strike continue. 

The government aims to increase the number of medical students from just over 3,000 to more than 5,000 in 2025. The country expects to add up to 10,000 doctors by 2035 to cope with the country's rapidly aging population amid a constantly falling birth rate. 

A Protestant seminary in China has signed an agreement with two state-sanctioned bodies to promote the controversial policy of the sinicization of Christianity and the thoughts of President Xi Jinping.

Shanghai-based East China Theological Seminary signed the agreement with the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China and the China Christian Council, in line with the "Patriotic Education Law" of the communist government.

Members of a Hong Kong Chinese Christian Churches Union delegation pose for a photo with officials of the East China Theological Seminary in Shanghai during a visit on March 15, 2023. The seminary has signed an agreement to promote the communist government's sinicization policy. (Photo: China Christian Daily)

US-based rights group, China-Aid slammed the move, saying this politically motivated agreement between the state-run organizations and the theological seminary is quite unusual, deviating completely from the usual path of faith and the church. China has asserted more control and launched a renewed crackdown on religious groups and religious activities since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Chinese Communist Party has firmed up and implemented a series of policies and regulations including the sinicization of religions, a political ideology that aims to impose socialist principles on individuals and society to ensure loyalty to the party.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association, the city’s largest and oldest press group, said it fears a new domestic security law may affect news reporting and urged the government to protect reporters.

The new security law, also known as Article 23 referring to the provision in the city’s mini constitution, could have “far-reaching implications” for the press, the group said in a submission last Friday.

Protesters hold up copies of Apple Daily as they demonstrate for press freedom in a Hong Kong shopping center in August 2020. The front-page photograph shows the newspaper’s founder, Jimmy Lai, being arrested in the newsroom. The Hong Kong Journalists Association fears a new security law may affect news reporting in the city. (Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images)

The association has also proposed the authorities provide clearer definitions for provisions relating to offenses, including external interference and theft of state secrets.

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing regime aims to enact a new domestic security law seeking to criminalize five types of crime: treason, insurrection, theft of state secrets and espionage, sabotage endangering national security, and external interference.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee has claimed most people support the law. In a joint statement signed by UK-based advocacy group Hong Kong Watch and activist groups based in the US, UK, and Canada that said the new law would bring “further devastating consequences” for human rights in the city.

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